CJEU ombudsman proposes repeal of mandatory return rule

CJEU ombudsman proposes repeal of mandatory return rule

trans.info — 2023-11-15

News from Brussels

The regulation was challenged several times before the CJEU by several EU Member States, who argued that the extra return journeys would undermine the EU’s climate change objectives.

European hauliers from a number of countries have on several occasions asked the European Commission to review the regulation concerning the compulsory return of heavy goods vehicles, which is part of the Mobility Package regulations published in summer 2020.

For example, in October 2020, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Malta, Cyprus and Belgium issued complaints to the CJEU challenging several provisions of the Mobility Package.

One of the contested provisions was the obligation for lorries to return to their country of residence every eight weeks, which many Member States claimed would have a negative impact both on the environment and on the operation of the transport industry and, indirectly, on the economy as a whole. 

However, these challenges did not achieve their objectives.

Fast forward to 2023, on Tuesday 14 November, Giovanni Pitruzzella, Advocate General of the ECJ, delivered his opinion on the contested provision, siding with the aforementioned countries who issued complaints.

The Advocate General acknowledged that the “vehicle return” rule had not been sufficiently justified by the European Parliament and the Council and had not taken into account the environmental impact of increased emissions and fuel consumption resulting from the obligation to return vehicles every eight weeks.

Pitruzzella therefore concludes that the provision contained in Article 1(3) of Regulation 2020/1055 should be annulled because it infringes the obligation under Article 91(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which requires the Union to take account of the environmental protection requirements and the specific characteristics of transport in each Member State when adopting transport rules.

Although the final verdict will not be delivered until early 2024, it should be noted that the ECJ’s rulings rarely deviate from the Ombudsman’s opinion.

The Maltese government has already taken the time to express its satisfaction with Pitruzzella’s granting of the request to repeal the provision, reports Maltese daily The Independent.

“The annulment of this provision would result in significantly lower costs for the transport companies and therefore lower costs for consumers. This would be a timely development given the current international scenario,” the Maltese government said in a statement on Tuesday.